(You can make all the pictures bigger by clicking on them)
Surprisingly, the four of us managed to meet at Rick & Lindsey’s in the Yorkshire Dales at the pre-arranged hour. Time was of the essence and so we all slumped into the settees in front of the woodburner in the cosy lounge, cups of tea in hand and chatted.
Mr & Mrs Grumpy, TGO legends, had come along to have lunch with Rick & Lindsey. Our departure for the great outdoors was delayed a little further as each of us are TGO Challengers and with something like seventy challenges between us, there was a lot of ground to cover.
The hand-picked team for this particular expedition comprised four bloggers with differing styles:
Martin Rye: Has a huge blog following and can invariably be found bounding along adventurous routes in Scotland and the the Lakes. There are only ever shots of the back of his head on his blog, so look away now if you are of a nervous disposition…
James Boulter: Newer to blogging but with an incredibly loyal and growing congregation who follow his exploits throughout the wilder parts of Wales, Scotland and its archipelagos. Sadly he was without Reuben, his faithful companion so I don’t know how he will manage to post to his blog as Reuben usually does all that.
Mad’n’Bad Andy Walker: The newest of the bloggers in the group, who mainly concerns himself with the TGO Challenge, having walked his first before history began.
Somehow I had been volunteered to come up with a plan for a weekend in North Yorkshire at the fag end of November, when daylight is a brief ‘hello’ before everything is plunged into stygian darkness for twenty hours or so. The weather forecast, unsurprisingly, was for wall to wall torrential downpours with a healthy dose of stormy buffeting. Ground conditions were a promising mix of knee deep gloop and greasy mud on a limestone pavement.
For four chaps who don’t bang on too much about gear it was interesting to note that we had all chosen to wear Paramo jackets and we had all brought American shelters to sleep under in what was promising to be horrendous weather…
Within minutes of setting off, the promised monsoon arrived, on cue.
And then, quite miraculously, the weather broke into cheerfulness, party hats and fluffy kittens! Yes – the next picture shows that the horrid nasty stuff was chased away by some brightness! The ground steamed a bit under the blazing sunshine.
We made our way up Crummack Dale, a little gem of a dale between the honeypots of Clapham and Horton, wonderfully infrequently visited by the hordes cramming into the National Park at the weekends.
As we climbed out of the dale we came across huge areas of limestone pavement. Fortunately the path meanders delightfully along grassy trods with occasional natural staircases to gain height.
Lunch was taken after the little climb out of the dale, on sheep nibbled turf, sheltered by a high wall. Views over to Pen-y-Ghent delighted, but the show stoppers were the views back down into Crummack Dale: quite beautiful.
With the clock ticking we re-girded our loins (I will add that we only girded our own loins) and plugged on up the hill via Sulber Nick; the main drag up the side of Ingleborough from Horton. This was possibly a mistake: Thousands and thousands and even more thousands of walkers plug up this self-same section of path every month on the Three Peaks Walk and we are destroying the wonderful environment that we are coming to visit by making a huge erosion scar right up the side of this fantastic hillside. I shan’t come this way again.
With the weather forecast for 80mph gusts in the back of our minds we sloped off northwards to Borrins Moor to flip the shelters up on some mossy ground whilst there was still a bit of light to see by.
As I snoozed in my Wanda I was aware that the breeze was freshening, with the occasional blast of snow in the thrashing against her flanks…
I woke in the morning to a tale of woe: At around six in the morning, when it was still pitch black, one of our number had had a tent pole snap and it had torn through the sil-nylon of his tent. This was indeed Very Bad News. I stumbled over sleepily to Martin’s Trailstar, where to my surprise the team were assembled beneath its capacious canopy. In fact, the team was all packed and ready to go!
What was very noticeable was how incredibly stable the Trailstar was under very blustery conditions. James’ tent (A Scarp I) had also been very stable as he had used the cross-over poles which tensioned the fly like a drum. Of course he has the advantage of a sealed environment against the dreaded midge and two doors, should the wind change direction after he had pitched.
Wanda, a Stephenson’s Warmlite 2C, by comparison, was nowhere near as stable in the cross winds, although she did okay. Poor Wendy (a Stephenson’s Warmlite 2R) is going to need surgery – a new pole section and a repair to her skin. I think Andy is going to have a set of rear guys attached as well to stabilise the top of the rear arch, which is a standard feature on Wanda.
We decided to plod down to Horton to the cafe for cheering mugs of hot coffee and bacon sandwiches. The weather had taken a serious turn for the worse and so it was a disappointed band of bloggers who arrived at the cafe to find it closed until Boxing Day. There was nothing for it: We adjourned to the pub to have beers and bacon baguettes.
By this time the weather had taken an even more serious turn for the very worserer! It looked like firemen were training their hoses on the windows of the pub. It was Very Horrid Indeed. The forecast for tonight was even worse than the night we had just had. We were a tent down and James wasn’t feeling too chipper either. So, we did the sensible thing and called it a day. Well, not quite, as we still had to get back to Austwick five or six miles away back over the hill.
We made it back to Rick & Lindsey’s who very kindly fed us all tea & Lyndsey’s scrumptious sponge cake with raspberry filling. Martin had been soaked right down to his shreddies as he hadn’t re-proofed his jacket for a while. So, we all dried out and then Andy, Martin & James headed back home, leaving me in front of the woodburner, being royally entertained by Rick, planning tomorrow’s adventure.